Since the financial crisis hit, 77% of women are more worried now about making ends meet, up from 61% in April 2008, according to a survey by AXA Equitable. Eighty-five percent say having a guaranteed source of retirement income for life is highly important, up from 72% who said so in the earlier survey.

Nonetheless, few women appear to be proactively taking steps to improve their financial situation, with only 41% working with a financial professional, down from 60% who were doing so in April 2008. They also report owning 10% fewer stocks, mutual funds, IRAs and annuities.

“Women are clearly more focused on their financial and, although that may be due to market conditions of the past 18 months, it’s a step in the right direction,” said Barbara Goodstein, executive vice president and chief innovation officer for AXA. “What is disconcerting, though, is that they are going without the guidance of a trusted financial professional, and are forsaking their long-term financial strategies for short-term moves that may be manifested in panic.”

However, the savings patterns of women closer to retirement are more encouraging, with 47% of women 55 or older working with a financial professional. That number jumps to 64% for women already retired.

And among women working with a financial professional, 71% say preserving assets for retirement is important, compared to 60% of women without financial professionals. And women working with a financial professional tend to be more optimistic about their financial health, with this group saying they believe they can retire two years earlier than others.

“It’s clear that women see the value in consulting with financial professionals as they get closer to retirement, and that the relationship is making a difference for them,” said Andrew McMahon, executive vice president of retail distribution for AXA Equitable and chairman of AXA Advisors, the firm’s broker/dealer.

“Equally, if not more important, however is that women need to reach out earlier so that they can make the informed choices and take the actions necessary to get their financial strategies on track, with the overarching goal of securing a sound retirement,” McMahon said.

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